Chapter 5: The Truth

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"On May 25th, I went over to Gonzalo's to work on that fucking group project. I didn't want to go, I thought it'd just be easier for us to work on it separately, but they insisted. They tried to sexually abuse me."

When I hear those words I feel a strange kind of vertigo. I suddenly feel like I'm floating high above the bench where we're sat. It's as if my soul was watching us from afar, from atop the highest tree in the park. He says something I don't catch.

"When I got there, I was surprised to see Natalia and Lucia because they weren't in the same group. I didn't expect them to be there and I started getting nervous, I sensed it was some kind of trap, but out of stupidity and fear of who knows what, I stayed. We were taking ages to get started on the project and they said it was because Gonzalo and Sandra were hooking up so we had to wait. I suddenly felt this rage burning inside me because I felt they'd tricked me and they were making me waste my time. I should have split and told them: next time we're meeting in the library and everybody's going to be on time. But you know what, Judith? I repressed my anger, I swallowed it, I locked it deep inside and threw away the key. I did myself so much damage but locking it away. Why do we so rarely ask for what we really need? I refused to let myself believe it was all a trap. It was too painful to think they were there just to laugh at me, so I started acting as if I didn't care. I was so scared of being unpopular, Judith, of them thinking I was a loser, that I wasn't getting any... that I let myself and all of you down. I betrayed you all so much by what I did that it made me shut myself away. It's what makes me most ashamed of all."

I have to make a huge effort not to speak out in his defense and tell him that it was a difficult situation, that they'd laid a trap for him, that he shouldn't blame himself, but something tells me Diego needs to get it all out without holding anything back.

"So when they offered me a beer, I took it; I downed it in one and as the alcohol entered my bloodstream, I noticed all my fear and anger being diluted. I even had this false impression that we were friends, that everything was going smoothly. I could make all my negative feelings just disappear in the blink of an eye, it was great.

I guess that's why alcohol is so popular: you can drown your sorrows without getting wet, without changing anything. Things started heating up and after four or five beers they rolled a joint. I was already too far gone to leave and they knew it. So they started passing the joint, breathing it in smoke mouth-to-mouth. Before I knew what was happening, Natalia was on my lap making out with me. A rotten smell reached deep into my nostrils, all the way to my brain. Even now, when I feel threatened I can still smell that odor. It was the smell of disgust, of rage and fear all together... I swear, it's worse than rotten eggs, I've never smelled anything like it. By the time I reacted, they had me surrounded, Gonzalo and Sandra were there encouraging Natalia, cheering her on. I swear to God, it was like they were demons straight out of hell. When they shouted the echo reverberated round and round in my head, their voices hit me with such force it was agonizing. It was worse than being stabbed with a knife, they cut right to my very core... with every shout I drifted a little deeper into confusion. Natalia took off my shoes and pulled down my pants. I started to struggle, I wanted to leave, but Gonzalo, maybe Jaime and Lucia too, were holding me down and wouldn't let me move. There were a lot of them. Sandra filmed it all on her cellphone."

"Whaaaaat?" I let slip.

"Yes. She filmed it all on her phone. So with the whole combination of things my body just couldn't take it anymore, Judith. And nobody expected what happened next. This irrepressible retch came over me and I puked everything inside me right onto Natalia, spraying everybody else in the process. That day I had huge plate of paella for lunch. I'm pretty sure I saw a mussel hanging in Sandra's hair," he winks.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I don't understand how he can still keep his sense of humor after all that happened.

"It was the best puke I ever had. I'm telling you, Judith, it was the vomit of all vomits."

Now he's really got me laughing.

"They all moved away from me and started complaining. I pulled up my pants, laced up my sneakers faster than a basketball pro and when I got up off the sofa, I snatched Sandra's cellphone before she could even react and ran out of there as fast as I could. They haven't seen me since and they won't until I choose to see them."

I'm left speechless. I continue speechless and I stay speechless. A tear falls down my cheek, then another, then another. We hug each other tight let the tears flow together.

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